A Guthman contestant plays an instrument by submerging both her hands in containers of water.

The History of Competition

The History of Competition

2023 marked the 25th edition of the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, an annual event aimed at identifying the world's next generation of musical instruments and the best new ideas in musicality, design, and engineering.

For its first 11 years, the Competition was a piano competition, transitioning to a musical instrument competition in 2009. The first Guthman Competition began with eight high school students. This year, the Guthman competition will host 9 inventors from around the world.

Wired magazine called the competition an "X-Prize for music," and contestants liken it to a TED Conference for new musical instrument designers. Some of our previous finalists include the OP-1Roli SeaboardGuitarbot and many other groundbreaking musical instruments which have since become successful commercially and artistically.

2023 Winners

The 2023 Guthman Musical Instrument Competition featured nine finalists from six countries. A panel of judges determined the first-, second-, and third-place winners. Popular vote immediately following the concert determined the People's Choice award.

The winners of the 25th Guthman Musical Instrument Competition received cash prizes and one-of-a-kind musical instrument trophies designed by School of Industrial Design students.

Keith Baxter playing the Zen Flute

First Place:
Zen Flute

Keith Baxter
United States

Elias Jarzombek playing the Abacusynth

Second Place:

Elias Jarzombek
United States

Performer playing the HiTAR in concert

Third Place:

Martelloni, McPherson, Barthet
United Kingdom

Abacusynth wins the People's Choice award

People's Choice:

People's Choice:

2022 Winners

Musical inventors from around the world submitted their instruments to the 2022 Guthman Musical Instrument Competition. After an online showcase of 26 semifinalists, a committee of Georgia Tech faculty and public voting decided which nine finalists and creators would compete at the final stage in front of a panel of judges.

Dániel Váczi plays the glissotar

First Place


Team: Dániel Váczi
Xiao Xiao performs on the T-Voks at the 2022 Guthman Concert.

Second Place


Team: Xiao Xiao, Gregoire Locqueville, Christophe d'Alessandro, Boris Doval
Giacomo Lepri performs on the Chowndolo at the 2022 Guthman Concert.

Third Place


Team: Giacomo Lepri
Spencer Topel and Sam Cape perform on the Cicada at the 2022 Guthman Concert.

Judges Special Award


Team: Physical Synthesis
Daniel Vaczi performs on the Glissotar at the 2022 Guthman Concert.

People's Choice


Team: Dániel Váczi

2019 Winners

First Place: The Glide - The Glide is a melodic instrument built around an accelerometer. The use and manipulation of acceleration changes the volume, tone, pitch, and attack, while a small handful of buttons select the initial pitch, legato, and transposition. It has been designed with accessibility primarily in mind, meaning that a wide range of people are able to play it regardless of physical ability, financial means, or prior musical knowledge.

Created by: Keith Groover | Origin: Spartanburg, South Carolina

Second Place: GeoShred – GeoShred is a unique, expressive musical instrument with a multi-touch performance surface, coupled with an advanced physical model of stringed instruments.

Created by: moForte/Wizdom Music | Origin: Mountain View, California

Third Place(tie): Air Sticks - The Air Sticks combine the physicality of drumming with the unlimited possibilities of computer music. Using innovative software, it morphs 3D space around the user into a playable area.

Created by: Alon Ilsar | Origin: Sydney, Australia

Third Place(tie): Spinstruments - The Spinstruments are designed to be reactive to the users movements. The device is programmed to assign sounds to particular types of movements so that as the artist builds a choreography, they can also create a song. The sounds themselves can be interchanged and there are limitless possibilities for combinations of sounds.

Created by: Enrico Vinholi & Ben Cooper | Origin: Portland, Oregon & Sydney, Australia

Most Unusual Instrument: Spinstruments - The Spinstruments also took home the audience's choice for most unusual instrument this year - the instrument's unique style of play mystified but intrigued the crowd.

Created by: Enrico Vinholi & Ben Cooper | Origin: Portland, Oregon & Sydney, Australia

Best Performance & Best Instrument: Air Sticks - Despite technical difficulties that forced the performer to stop playing during his set, he was allowed to finish at the end of the show. Despite this, the Airsticks clearly won over the favor of the audience, taking both the awards for Best Performance and Best Instrument.

Created by: Alon Ilsar | Origin: Sydney, Australia

Most Promising Musical Instrument Inventor: Biot-Savharp – In addition to the standard awards, the judges wished to recognize the accomplishments of Alice Barbe in the competition. Guthman judge Roger Linn went out of his way to explain why the Biot-Savharp impressed him so much, explaining the technology behind it to the crowd as a harpsichord that did not connect the keyboard to the harp strings - instead, it was actuated by magnets. When he went on to tell the crowd that she was a high school student that was double enrolled at Georgia Tech, the crowd audibly gasped, and responded with loud applause.
The Biot-Savharp is a table-top harp with steel strings made to play with electromagnets, placed above the strings, which are enabled/disabled at the frequency of the string.

Created by: Alice Barbe & Asimm Harani | Origin: Atlanta, Georgia

2018 Winners

First Place: Hyper Drumhead - The Hyper Drumhead is a tabletop interface with a retro-projected multi-touch glass display. An innovative model computes sound waves in real-time. Every time the glass is touched, a sound is injected into the system, turning every part of the screen into its own percussive instrument.

Created by: Victor Zappi and Sidney Fels | Origin: Genoa, Italy, and Vancouver, Canada

Second Place: GramFX – GramFX is an augmented gramophone that uses an open-air gesture to control the processing of acoustic and electronic sound. It combines old and new recording/playback technologies to explore the physicality of a wind-up turntable in relation to light, time, space, and movement.

Created by: Jassie Rios | Origin: Washington, D.C.

Third Place: Microtonal Ocarina - The Microtonal Ocarina is actually a collection of ceramic vessel flutes, able to play pitch fluid, tonally, and micro-tonally. They have a highly simplified “fingering” system; one hole to blow into the instrument and two playing holes, forming a T shape.

Created by: Wesley Hicks | Origin: Los Angeles, California

Most Unusual Instrument: Stepper Rattle - The Stepper Rattle explores the balance between randomness and control caused by the complex of array of sensors and mechanics. With a design inspired by a rattle creating ambiguous rhythms that can slip in and out of time by chance.

Created by: Matthew Steinke | Origin: Austin, Texas

Best Performance: TABLIX - TABLIX started with the desire to explore technology’s impact on the untapped melodic potential of the tabla, which is made up of a pair of drums and serves as a staple in Hindustani classical music. The idea is rooted in the deep history of the tabla and blends the ergonomics, tradition, and sounds of a time-honored tabla tradition with the infinite possibilities of the digital to create a new mode of artistic expression.

Created by: Gurpreet Chana | Origin: Toronto, Canada

Best Instrument: Stahlcello - Imagine a magnifying glass for music, that slows down sound to a point where the sound itself is more important than pitches or rhythm. A Stahlcello consists of 52 chromatically tuned rods made of iron and steel that are bowed by the performer. It is built on a resonating steel plate that creates a unique sonic world.

Created by: Jan Heinke | Origin: Dresden, Germany

Technical Achievement: MechDrum – The MechDrum™ uses authentic striking implements, four degrees of freedom, and innovative motion control algorithms to render performances that closely match a human drummer. The result is a distinctly non-robotic rendering that honors both the percussionist and instrument.

Created by: Robert Van Rooyen | Origin: Victoria, Canada

2017 Winners

First Place: Infinitone - As its name implies, the Infinitone is designed to let a user quickly and easily play any music interval in the harmonic spectrum at any time. It’s based on the thought that just as painters can paint with infinite colors, musicians should be able to make music with infinite varieties of musical intervals. The result is an instrument that can go as far as the imagination of the musician playing it.

Created by: Subhraag Singh | Origin: Stuttgart, Germany

Second Place: Rib Cage – The Rib Cage is an electro-acoustic instrument that gives a musician a chance to perform a duet with robotics. The performer plays a percussive tune on the "ribs," and the robotics within the "spine" listen and react to the user's performance and style of play. The instrument can be played using a violin bow, mallet, or even a hair comb. Depending on the object, the Rib Cage generates a different acoustical sound.

Created by: Takumi Ogata | Origin: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Third Place: Salimbaa - The Salimbaa is a fresh take on playing a stringed instrument. Made with 36 strings stretched across a steel bowl, the musician spins the instrument to play a song. Half of each string is played with small mallets, while the other half serves to resonate, creating a unique harmonic sound as it spins.

Created by: Caleb Byerly | Origin: High Point, North Carolina

Most Unusual Instrument: MM-RT - The MM-RT (material and magnet - rhythm and timbre) is an instrument built to find the music in ordinary everyday objects. Using magnets and actuators to vibrate the user's chosen items on the top of the instrument, it is capable of percussive, melodic, and textural sound. It can be played by moving the objects by hand, creating an acoustic feel - it's pretty much the closest a musician can get to touching sound.

Created by: Akito Van Troyer | Origin: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Best Performance: Optron - The Optron may look like a light tube from a lamp, but it combines LEDs and powerful electronics to create an instrument that is as visually striking as it is versatile. It can be played by tilting and simply moving it around, or be strummed like a guitar with a sensor running down the neck. Light and color become more than just the look of the instrument – they become new ways to make music!

Created by: Chet Udell | Origin: Albany, Oregon

Best Overall Instrument, Most Transformative Instrument: Lyharp - The name “Lyharp” comes from the fact that the instrument is similar to a harp lying horizontally. It originates from Guzheng (Chinese Zither). One key feature of the Lyharp is that it involves a tuning mechanism where there are two pitched sections on each string that are tuned a half step apart. The acoustic-electric Lyharp has a hollow body sound box and uses piezo pickups. The solid-body electric Lyharp uses a combination of magnetic and piezo pickups. The magnetic pickups allow for the instrument to be used with a guitar amplifier and effect pedals. The piezo pickups also act as midi triggers on the lowest 5 strings, allowing the Lyharp to trigger Ableton with the string vibration./p>

Created by: Ly Yang & Zak Seipel | Origin: Platteville, Wisconsin

Most Collaborative Music Making: Moog's Greatest Hits – Moog's Greatest Hits was the first-place winner in the 2017 Moog Hackathon. It combines a drum with a Moog Werkstatt synthesizer placed in a cardboard box, allowing one musician to play to a beat while another accompanies with synthesized sound. Its combination of percussion and analog sound creates a versatile, but high musicality instrument -- especially impressive, considering it was built in only 48 hours!

Created by: Hanoi Hantrakul, Zach Kondak, & Somesh Ganesh | Origin: Atlanta, Georgia

2016 Winners

First Place: Golf Club Sitar/Tabla - The instruments, created primarily from urban detritus, express a poetic spirit of re-invention and hyper-utility as hidden meanings and associations momentarily create a striking and re-animated cultural identity for common objects.

Created by: Ken Butler | Origin: New York

Second Place: Yaybahar – The Yaybahar is a purely acoustic instrument consisting of a resonate membrane, changeable fretboards, capo neck system, and controllable spring vibration pedal system.

Created by: Gorkem Sen | Origin: Turkey

Third Place: STIMULiERTE Emissionen Klingen - This instrument is based on a 2x2 meter frame that holds 16 lasers targeted to 16 photo resistors, creating a two-dimensional grid of laser beams.

Created by: Leo Bettinelli | Origin: Argentina/Austria

Most Unusual and Best Performance: Golf Club Sitar/Tabla - Turning junk like old golf clubs, umbrellas, toothbrushes, and even his head into a musical instrument, along with great showmanship, landed him both awards from the audience.

Created by: Ken Butler | Origin: New York

Best Instrument: Yaybahar - Being the only purely acoustic instrument to make the finals, the Yaybahar stood majestically as heart wrenching sounds of a full string ensemble were bowed from a single instrument.

Created by: Gorkem Sen | Origin: Turkey

Technical Excellence: The Sound Space - This instrument is similar to a sampler where it acts like an empty box to be filled up with sound files. It turns the physical space around the performer as a key-area to place and to play his own voice samples. A performer literary spreads his voice around him by the gesture, creating an entire sound scene.

Created by: Greg Beller | Origin: France

Special Recognition: Motion Composer – This instrument is a hardware-software device developed for persons with disabilities. It allows anyone a clear sense of musical expression through creative gesture and movement.

Created by: Robert Wechsler, Andreas Bergsland, and Eirc Naindouba | Origin: Germany

Judges' Recognition: Contriverb – The only instrument to not make the finals but given an award by the judges, this instrument offers a new sonic palette for the string/percussionist player. It consists of three necks with three steel strings on each neck, conjoined in the center, which can be stroked, plucked, hit, or played in virtually any way.

Created by: Ed Potokar | Origin: New York

2015 Winners

  • First Prize – Christophe d'Alessandro, Boris Doval, Lionel Feugère, Olivier Perrotin, Cantor Digitalis, is a singing voice synthesizer controlled using chironomy, i.e. hand gestures, with the help of interfaces like stylus or fingers on a graphic tablet or computer mouse. 
  • Second Prize – Peter Bussigel, Ndial, is an automated sampling and sequencing with manual controls to navigate sound worlds in unpredictable ways.
  • Third Prize – Dominik Hildebrand Marques Lopes, Amelie Hinrichsen, Till Bovermann, PushPull, a central control element is bellow combining inertial sensor data with mechano-analog sound input and digital synthesis.
  • People’s Choice Award Best Instrument and Performance – Jonathan Sparks, Nomis, produces melodies and loops via light and gestures.
  • People’s Choice Award Most Unusual Instrument – Ed Potokar, Magnetic Percussion Tower, combines aspects of kinetic sculpture, music box design, drum machine, and interactive art.


2015 Judges

  • Joe Paradiso - Director of the MIT Media Lab's Responsive Environments Group and Associate Professor of Media Arts & Sciences at MIT. Dr. Paradiso is a physicist who has worked with NASA and a designer of electronic music synthesizers and MIDI systems.
  • Graham Marsh - Producer, mixer, writer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist with four Grammy awards and numerous Grammy nominations. Graham has engineered, produced and played for artists such as Ludacris, Kid Cudi, Bruno Mars, Gnarls Barkely, and Cee Lo Green among many others.
  • DJ Hurricane – Hip hop DJ, producer, and rapper, known for his work with the Beastie Boys. One of New York's premier turntablists, DJ Hurricane fostered his skills alongside Run D.M.C. and is currently developing hip hop artist JBYRD while serving as Playpro Media speaker on the history of hip-hop. 

2014 Winners

  • First Prize – Tolgahan Cogulu , Adjustable Microtonal Guitar, allows for microtonal tunings used in non-western musical traditions to be accessed on a classical guitar by sliding or adding extra frets in specific locations on his patented fret board track.
  • Second Prize – Teenage Engineering, OP-1, a portable music workstation incorporating a synthesizer, sampler, sequencer, multitrack recorder, drum machine, mixer and controller. 
  • Third Prize – Gao Jiafeng, TRI-O, a controller that uses the side lengths and area of an ever-changing triangle to allow for a more dynamic musical experience. 
  • People’s Choice Award Best Instrument – nu desine – a new kind of digital controller from the United Kingdom, has a spherical design with playable circular pads that allow for varying degrees of expression. 
  • People’s Choice Award Best Performance – Tolgahan Cogulu
  • People’s Choice Award Most Unusual Instrument – Yuto Hasebe, Tree Guitar, a novel string instrument  from the perspective of biological morphogenesis in advanced higher art and design.


2014 Judges

  • David Zicarelli, founder and CEO of Cycling ’74
  • Chris Moore, composer, performer and Georgia Tech professor
  • Young Guru, Grammy-nominated engineer and DJ to Jay-Z. 

2013 Winners

  • First Prize – Hans Leeuw, The Electrumpet, an electroacoustic instrument that mimics normal playing actions but also has enhanced capabilities and recognition software to facilitate “true hybrid play”
  • Second Prize – Onyx Ashanti, Beatjazz Exo-voice Prosthesis, a voice/breath-operated synthesizer in the headgear, while the two handheld controls incorporate accelerometers, joysticks and pressure-sensitive buttons.
  • Third Prize – Merche Blasco, Espongina, using waterproof piezo sensors, audio power is captured by microphones and mapped to MIDI values in conjunction with audio softwares or a NORD MODULAR G2 synthesizer
  • People’s Choice Award Best Instrument – Roland Lamb – Roli Seaboard, evolved from the piano keyboard, this instrument bridges the gap between acoustic and digital music by providing fingertip control of pitch, volume and timbre
  • People’s Choice Award Best Performance – Onyx Ashanti
  • People’s Choice Award Most Unusual Instrument – Merche Blasco


2013 Judges

  • Laurie Anderson, one of America’s most renowned – and daring – creative pioneers bridging the worlds of art, theater, and experimental music.
  • David Wessel, Professor of Music and Director of CNMAT at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Richard Devine, internationally acclaimed electronic musician and sound designer

2012 Winners

  • First Prize – Marco Donnarumma, Xth Sense, a biophysical interactive system for musical and intermedia performance
  • Second Prize – Kyle Evans and James Connolly, Cracked Ray Tube, a collaborative hardware hacking project
  • Third Prize – Bojan Gagic and Miodrag Gladovic, Lighterature Reading, the conversion of light from luminous objects into tone images via the photovoltaic effect generated through solar panels


2012 Judges

  • Cyril Lance, Senior Engineer, Moog Music
  • Atau Tanaka, media artist and researcher, Chair of Digital Media at Newcastle University, and is Director of Culture Lab
  • Parag Chordia, Assistant Professor, School of Music, Georgia Institute of Technology

2011 Winners

  • First Prize – Frédéric Bevilacqua and Julien Bloit, Interlude Consortium MO, software exploring novel gestural interfaces for musical expression with everyday objects, such as kitchen utensils and soccer balls
  • Second Prize – Christian Graupner, MindBox Media Slot Machine, a vintage slot machine with an unexpected modern twist on the age-old tradition of canon composition 
  • Third Prize – Leon Gruenbaum, the Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheeepeeeee, an adapted computer keyboard generating individual notes based on relative pitch


2011 Judges

  • Sergi Jorda, Professor, Department of Information and Communication Technologies, Universitat Pompeu Fabra University
  • Tom Oberheim, Oberheim Electronics
  • Jason Freeman, Assistant Professor, School of Music, Georgia institute of Technology

2010 Winners

  • First Prize – Tomas Henriques, The Double Slide Controller, an electronic trombone-like instrument featuring two independent slides and two versatile hand controllers.
  • Second Prize – Keith, McMillen, the K-Bow, a wireless sensor-equipped bow
  • Third Prize – Kunal Gupta, Tristan Perich and Katie Shima, Loud Objects, performing live circuit constructions on an overhead projector
  • Third Prize – Steven Litt, The CrudBox, a robotic amplified step sequencer creating sophisticated rhythmic textures.


2010 Judges

  • Johannes Goebel, Founding Director of Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Tod Machover, Professor and Director of Hyperinstruments/Opera of the Future Group at the MIT Media Lab
  • Tom Sherwood, Principal Percussionist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
  • Gil Weinberg, Director, Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology

2009 Winners

  • First Prize – Jaime Oliver, Silent Drum, a modified drum using computer vision and an elastic surface/head for gestural control of music
  • Second Prize – Eric Singer, GuitarBot, a four-stringed robotic slide guitar
  • Third Prize – David Wessel, SLABS, arrays of pressure-sensitive touch pads


2009 Judges

  • Eran Egozy, co-founder of Harmonix
  • Eliot Van Buskirk, Music Reporter for Wired.com
  • Parag Chordia, Assistant Professor, School of Music, Georgia Institute of Technology


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